Miscommunication led to Wal-Mart evacuation, authorities say

PORT ANGELES — Investigators say it was likely a miscommunication that led to the evacuation of Wal-Mart’s huge department store Tuesday evening when employees reported chemical odors coming from a drain inside the store.

Initial reports suggested an unidentified man was seen near the drain before the smell was discovered.

But after interviewing employees and witnesses, investigators from the Clallam County Sheriff’s Department learned that a store employee without managerial knowledge issued a work order for a plugged drain in the vicinity of the stench, Sgt. Dave Fontenot said Wednesday.

Videotapes of the area indicate nobody tampered with the drain, he said.

“There is no threat to public safety,” said Fontenot after the work order was confirmed and the scene was re-checked and cleared by Clallam County Fire District No. 2

“It seems to be just a miscommunication,” he said.

Early evening evacuation

Wal-Mart, on U.S. Highway 101 east of Port Angeles, evacuated staff and shoppers from the store about 7 p.m. Tuesday as a precaution after suspecting a chemical odor was emanating from the drain. The smell was noticed at about the same time the man was reportedly seen near the drain.

Some employees went home while others waited outside in the cold as a hazardous materials team investigated the store.

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